Reader Guitar of the Month: Gibson Melody Maker from the 1960s


Last name: Robert Morency

Site: Montreal Canada
Guitar: Gibson Melody Maker

The story begins with my good mate Pavlo Haikalis, a luthier at PHG Guitars here in Montreal, who bought a vintage Gibson Melody Maker in a store a few years ago. It didn’t have a serial number, but its only cutaway and narrow pickup indicated that it was from 1960 or 1961. The guitar was in poor condition and needed more than a little TLC. It had a poor finish and lost some of its thickness due to prior sanding.

In his spare time, Pavlo proceeded to strip and finish it in a lovely reddish brown, reminiscent of those late 50s double-cut Les Paul Juniors. He even managed to save the original Gibson doll logo, which was covered with black paint, sanding it lightly to the original paint, then polishing it. He did a terrific job, but was left in his store with no parts or frets for a while, while he was busy making his own guitars.

I once asked him what he was planning to do with the guitar and offered to finish it, as I myself am a luthier and have been restoring vintage instruments for years (decades, actually). I thought this would be a cool guitar to use in concert with my trio, Unkle Groove. Lucky for me, he agreed and I picked up the guitar with a bag of parts a few days later.

I started by re-rubbing it with jumbo frets and working on the original nylon nut, which had seen better days. I found a newer wrap-around bridge, but since the body had lost about 1/4 “thick, I had to cut the inserts as they were now too long to fit in. With a good setup, the inserts were too long to fit. The action was low, with no buzz, and the guitar played and sounded great acoustically. Then it was time to work on the electronics. I rewired everything with new CTS faders and an old Switchcraft jack that I have. had that lying around. But the mic was pretty microphonic, so I took it and dipped it in my “special mix” of wax, and There you go! The mic sounded good and full enough for a single coil, and no feedback… unless I wanted to.

The handle originally had the thinner profile of the early ’60s, but the extra sanding made it quite thin. Surprisingly, it can still handle my heavier string gauge (.012 – .052) without compromising on action or playability. The tuners are the usual open geared variety found on cheaper instruments, but they stay perfectly tuned and never give me a problem live.

I have to say it was a fun project, and the Melody Maker has become my main concert guitar for the past two and a half years. It’s a light, resonant and strong guitar that is extremely versatile for a small, single-pickup board. With Unkle Groove, we play everything from Hendrix to Pink Floyd to ZZ Top, and everything is up to the task. I encourage readers to find their own “basket” and, who knows, with a little work, the end result might surprise you.

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